Odd Thoughts: As powerless as ever before

I’m sitting in the dark.


Once again, the modern miracle of universal electrification has been stymied by a random act of nature.

It seems to be happening a lot this year.

Thanks to the magic of smart phones, cell towers, and interactive Internet communication, I know that the storm heaving and moaning outside my door has vented its wrath on a tree down the road, making an end run around the walls and windows that usually keep my existence reasonably secure, and creating a disconnect between my neighbourhood and the hydroelectric dams that energize us from hundreds of miles away.

I don’t have to crawl all the way into the nether reaches of my brain, into the places where my youth is stored, to find scraps of memories of sitting in the dark, huddled around hastily gathered candles, with absolutely no idea of what was going on outside the circle of light extended marginally by a smelly oil lamp.

Of course, I don’t have any more control over what’s going on outside tonight than I did when the late-autumn storms dumped loads of rain and darkness on our farm all those decades ago, but at least I now know what it is that I have no control over.

Other than that, it’s pretty much the same as those earlier dark days.

We’re sitting in darkness lit only by three scrounged tea lights, a clunky old flashlight, two ancient oil lamps kept as decoration and to burn scented oils at Christmas, and the book Donna is reading on her iPad… oh yeah, I guess that’s a little different. Instead of trying to capture enough light from a flickering candle to make out the words in a Hardy Boys mystery (the print in Catcher In The Rye was too small to read by candlelight), tonight the book itself is throwing more light than our emergency candles ever did.

Other than that, it seems worse, because we’re so much more dependent on the electricity that tonight’s storm is withholding.

And since the main household computer has no more to offer than a dead screen as empty as a politician’s brain, my deadline has become a tunnel with no discernible light at the end.I thought about writing this longhand, by lamplight, with pen and paper… but let’s face it, I’ve grown lazy.

I can think of a host of reasons — some are even good reasons — why I shouldn’t bother.For one thing, it’s much easier dictating my thoughts (or the absence thereof) into my iPhone, so long as the battery lasts.

And I could always claim tomorrow (or whenever) that, without power to my home office, I couldn’t send my work out: “I wrote the column on time — honest — but I had to wait for the electricity to come back on to send it to you. Honest!” The extra “honest” adds an especially sincere touch, doesn’t it?

Besides, in this day and age, no one expects anything of anyone handicapped by a power outage. It’s the perfect excuse for doing nothing.

The perfect excuse, that is, for everyone except the Hydro crews trying to shove the pieces of electricity back into the power lines… or whatever it is they’re doing out there.

The Hydro folks serve two functions on a night like this. Certainly, they defy the blasting winds and rain to make the electric stuff flow again so that all the things in our lives can get back to the way they’re supposed to be.

Perhaps more importantly, however, they give the rest of us something to complain about when they never do it fast enough.

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